Sue Sitter/PCT Members of Rugby High School’s new eSports team pose with their general manager, Johnny Skipper. From left to right are Kenyon Lonechild, Chase Schneibel, Bryce Jacobs and Skipper.

Three high school rugby students wrapped up their first-ever season of a new sports program with a trip to a state tournament held at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks on April 2.

After a decisive championship game against Ft. Yates High School on April 6, Rugby won the state title.

Chase Schneibel, Bryce Jacobs and Kenyon Lonechild represented rugby as they competed in electronic and board games at the Grand Forks tournament.

Jacobs, who competed in chess, won second place after reaching the final round, where he played against a student from Park Rapids, Minn.

Johnny Skipper, a para-professional from Rugby High, served as the team’s general manager. Schneibel and Lonechild played with coaching from professional gamers provided by Fenworks, the Grand Forks company that started the high school esports program.

Skipper said he was happy the rugby players won the state tournament in their first year playing.

Skipper and Schneibel, a Rugby High student who leads the team, said they heard Fenworks hoped to branch out to include Montana high schools in its program. Skipper added that the esports program also hopes to join the North Dakota High School Activities Association.

“Just getting the chance to go out state is pretty cool on its own, but hanging out with all these online friends I’ve met is awesome.” Schneibel said.

“I’m the captain of the Apex team that went down there”, Schneibel said. “The Apex Legends game we play is Battle Royale.”

Skipper said the game was marketed to the public.

“It’s a competitive online game,” he said.

Jacobs explained, “All games are video games except chess, which is in person.”

The Rugby Panthers also had a team competing in Fenworks’ Rocket League. This team did not go to the state tournament.

Lonechild described the Apex Legends game as “an online multiplayer game that you can do on Xbox, PC, Play Station and different kinds of platforms.”

Schneibel nodded, saying: “Apex Legends Battle Royale is a game where 20 teams of three lay down a large map and we search for guns and the last remaining team wins.”

“It’s a fictional setting on a planet where the last team standing wins,” Skipper said, noting that unlike other games depicting historical events such as World War II, “There are no references to real world events or history or anything like that,”

Schneibel said the rugby team plays like the Panthers overall, but in the Apex Legends game, players use a team name indicating their status as top players.

“We are the apex predators” Schneibel said of himself and Lonechild. “In our regular season we went 8 and 0 and we didn’t lose a game.”

Skipper said the rugby team won the state title with a score of 13-10.

Schneibel added that his team couldn’t complete their online tournament in Grand Forks, so they played for the first-place title against Ft. Yates High School on April 6.

Skipper said the team trains and prepares for tournaments the same way other sports teams prepare for big games – they look at how they’ve done in previous games recorded online and study new ones. strategies they can use to defeat their opponents and score more points.

Skipper said that as the team’s general manager, he makes saved games available on a software platform called Twitch.

“I make sure the players get to their practices and we played our games on time and communicated with the other teams and their coaches and Fenworks,” Skipper added.

“They gave lessons. They provided video lessons, in-person training and it was over the internet, but it was with a one-on-one coach if you wanted it,” Skipper said of Fenworks.

Players said Rugby and Ft. Yates coordinated game schedules, but unlike many video games, they wouldn’t see other teams’ characters online.

Schneibel said that while many online games allow players to see their opponents, the Apex Legends game server lacks this capability.

“The only way to try and play with each other in the state would be to have our own private server, which they couldn’t get,” Skipper said.

“You must be sponsored by EA (Electronic Arts) Games”, said Lonechild.

Skipper said that EA Games sponsors certain events in the United States and allows players to use a private server, allowing teams “to jump together and face each other directly.”

“But whenever tournaments like ours can’t be sponsored by Electronic Arts, what they do instead is have teams go into public games and compete for the most points. “ he added. “Each team plays in parallel, not against each other.”

“So they play against random opponents online,” he said. “Whoever gets the most downs and placement determines if (players advance in tournaments). After a certain number of rounds, you count all of your points, which determines your total score, and we’re tied for first place with our opponent, Ft. Yates (in Grand Forks).

Skipper said the April 6 game served as a tiebreaker, with each team playing online at their own schools.

“For a long time that’s how all Apex Legends games were run, then eventually Electronic Arts started doing their sponsorships, but you gotta get their attention.” he noted.

“I don’t think EA is interested in our programs this year, but hopefully they can do something next year,” he said. “I know it’s more interesting if they all jump together in the same game and go head-to-head.”

Schneibel said he was playing “all kinds of games” during his free time.

“I play all the games that Fenworks (use); I play story mode games and all kinds of online titles,” he said.

Jacobs said, “I don’t really have any games listed because I don’t have a game console to be able to play them. I mainly play board games, that’s why I’m into chess.

Lonechild said he was playing “mostly just Apex and Minecraft, but really I just play Apex.”

“For next year, I’m looking at fundraising opportunities because we would really like to be able to have consoles or devices for students who don’t have access to them at home to participate,” Skipper said. “So we could set up a little lab in the school for students to join in and play, even if they don’t have a console themselves.”

Skipper added, “I also lead an elementary group. It’s separate from those guys; we are not in competition, but every week we meet in the library and talk about gaming, do gaming activities and talk about safe internet habits and esports opportunities and future opportunities in areas such as game design or streaming or e-sports.”

“You can get scholarships for (video games) now”, he said. “I know that Dickinson State University and UND both have teams and scholarships that they offer to players who might not otherwise have those opportunities, so it’s really a thing in full swing. growth and we’re trying to accommodate as many people as possible as best we can and really grow it.” in the community.”